Byelection: heads butt over corporate sponsorships in schools

Chilliwack school trustee candidate Ben Besler says business partnerships have a place in schools, while others disagree.

Despite being raked over the coals at last week’s all-candidates meeting for his support of corporate sponsorships in public schools, Ben Besler is not standing down.

In fact, the school trustee candidate is calling out fellow candidates for their opposition of corporate sponsorship.

“If local businesses want to help our schools offer more choices and higher quality education we should welcome them with open arms,” said Besler in a press release issued Monday.

Besler cited the school district’s Policy 907 advocating for business and community involvement in schools as long as it enhances educational opportunities for students and doesn’t serve as commercial motive.

When contacted by The Progress, Besler provided such examples as the Ford Drive one 4 UR school program; McDonald’s promoting literacy in elementary schools with a free Happy Meal for students who read 50 books; Mertin GM, and other local businesses, sponsoring the G.W. Graham Grizzlies football team.

“Our [district] motto is Partners in Learning – that’s what I’m supporting,” said Besler.

“Some of my opponents appear to be suggesting a drastic change of course for School District 33. The zero-tolerance approach toward business funding in our school district suggested by both Dan Coulter and Karen Jarvis on Nov. 13 would severely limit the options available to our teachers to provide extracurricular programs for students.”

At the all-candidates meeting Jarvis said business had no place in education.

“My kids aren’t here to promote business, they’re here to be educated – I don’t see how that can be a healthy marriage,” she said.

Coulter is also against private funding in schools.

Allowing corporations into schools is a slippery slope, he told The Progress.

“If you start letting large corporations into schools, especially into core services that public education provides, you’re risking their influence on student learning.

“What if they start demanding certain things, or demanding the teaching of certain things?”

Coulter said he’s not looking to get rid of current sponsorships that schools and the district already have in place, but he’s not in favor of bringing in more.

“I don’t think that makes me an extremist,” he said.

Instead, he believes the government should be providing those funds.

“Public education is public,” Coulter said at the all-candidates meeting. “Everyone pays enough taxes and we should be getting retention for that in the school district.”